PM 'very concerned' by Bashir report as ex-BBC executive quits Ofcom role

What next for the BBC as fallout from the damning report into its Panorama Diana interview continues? ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener explains.

Former BBC executive Tim Suter, who was part of the 1996 internal investigation into Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, has stepped down from his role with Ofcom, the broadcast regulator has said.

Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: "By mutual agreement, Tim Suter, Ofcom board member and chair of Ofcom’s content board, is stepping down with immediate effect. We would like to thank Tim for his contribution to Ofcom."

Suter was previously the managing editor of weekly programmes in BBC News and current affairs.

Could Lord Dyson's report change the future of the BBC?

The internal investigation conducted by former director-general Lord Tony Hall, who was director of BBC news and current affairs when the Diana interview was screened, was described as "woefully ineffective" in Lord Dyson's report into the Panorama interview.

Earlier, the PM said the BBC should take "every possible step to make sure nothing like this ever happens again".

As pressure on the broadcaster grows, the Prime Minister said he was "very concerned" by the findings of the report, adding it is "up to the BBC now to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again."

Director-general Tim Davie has written to staff at the BBC and said lessons must be learnt following the publication of Lord Dyson’s blistering report into the circumstances surrounding Diana, Princess of Wales’ 1995 Panorama interview.

In an internal email, Mr Davie said people across the BBC felt “deeply let down” by the contents of the 127-page document, which found the corporation covered up “deceitful behaviour” used by journalist Martin Bashir to secure the explosive interview.

He said the findings were “particularly upsetting” given the broadcaster’s commitment to fair and honest journalism.

Mr Davie took over as director-general last year from Lord Hall, who led an internal investigation into the interview in 1996 and is facing questions over why Bashir was rehired by the BBC in 2016.

Mr Davie added to staff: “Personally, I am deeply proud of the BBC that I run today, as I know you all are. We should all take pride in continuing to work for the world’s leading public service broadcaster.

“Right now, the best way to build and preserve our reputation is to keep delivering outstanding work across the organisation, earning the trust of audiences. Thanks to all of you for continuing to achieve this as we go through this demanding period.

“We have much to reflect on. I know that we now have significantly stronger processes and governance in place to ensure that an event like this doesn’t happen again. However we must also learn lessons and keep improving.”

Sir Cliff Richard, who was awarded more than £200,000 in damages by the BBC after winning a privacy claim, said he was "not surprised" at the BBC's "dastardly involvement the Bashir interview".

He said: "Having been victim to the BBC's craze for a TV 'scoop' in August 2014, I had already lost all faith in those who control this one-time great institution.

"The management and staff involved at the time deserve all that must surely come their way."

Sir Cliff Richard successfully won damages from the BBC.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said in the wake of Lord Dyson's report into the interview, ministers would be looking at whether the BBC needs reform.

Scotland Yard has said it will "assess the contents" of the report into Martin Bashir's BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales "to ensure there is no significant new evidence".

An investigation into Mr Bashir's explosive 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales has found the BBC "fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark".

Bashir left the BBC in 1999, four years after his Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, to join ITV. In 2016, he was rehired as religious affairs correspondent, before becoming religion editor.

Earlier this month, he stepped down from the role and left the BBC, citing health reasons due to Covid-19 complications, shortly before the publication of the Lord Dyson report.

Watch Prince William's statement in full:

Following the release of the report, the Duke of Cambridge blamed BBC leaders for failing his mother after the "deceitful" interview.

Prince William began his week-long visit to Scotland on Friday, the day after making his statement criticising the BBC.

He was pictured looking relaxed and smiling during a visit to Spartans Football Club’s Ainslie Park Stadium home in Edinburgh.

Prince William began his tour of Scotland on Friday

Prince Harry said in a statement that the "ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life".

The Duke of Sussex revealed the depths of his grief in the aftermath of his mother's death in 1997, saying he drank and took drugs to mask his feelings.

Mr Bashir commissioned fake bank statements and used "deceitful behaviour" in a "serious breach" of the BBC's producer guidelines to secure his Panorama interview, the inquiry concluded.In a statement, Scotland Yard said: "In March 2021, the MPS determined it was not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity in connection with a documentary broadcast in 1995 but should any significant new evidence emerge it would be assessed.

"Following the publication of Lord Dyson's report we will assess its contents to ensure there is no significant new evidence."

Mr Buckland told ITV's Good Morning Britain Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, had said ministers should now look at the governance structures of the BBC. "There may be issues that Lord Dyson wasn't asked to cover that need to be looked at more widely, so it is a very serious moment for the BBC," he said.

"They have apologised, which is appropriate, but clearly the wider issues of governance and the way things are run now need to be looked at."

Ms Patel said: "With a free press and free media, the media themselves and our broadcasters and our national broadcaster has a huge sense of responsibility in the way in which they investigate, review and conduct their own media reports so there will be very strong and searching questions for the BBC post the publication of this report."

Home Secretary Priti Patel says "there will be very strong and searching questions for the BBC" following the findings of the Dyson report into Martin Bashir's interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

The royal charter forms the constitutional basis for the BBC and sets out its mission and public purpose, as well as its governance and regulatory arrangements.

The current charter started on January 1 2017 and ends on December 31 2027. The mid-term review of the charter, due in 2022, will focus on governance and regulatory arrangements, but not the broadcaster’s mission or funding.

Speaking to LBC radio, Mr Buckland said he was "struck" by "the sense of tragedy and loss" in the statements from the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Diana during her Panorama interview with Martin Bashir Credit: BBC/PA

"Let's just imagine it was any family, not the royal family - I think we should be just as indignant and concerned if somebody who was vulnerable was inveigled into giving an interview that perhaps might not have happened if standards of probity and honesty had been maintained. "And then of course it is compounded by, as you described, a cover-up or a failure to put right and to apply the very high standards that have got to apply to a public service broadcaster like the BBC."

Asked whether Mr Bashir had committed "fraud" with the fake bank statements he had had made up during his pitch for an interview with the Princess of Wales, the Justice Secretary said the documents were "hugely serious".

Diana, Princess of Wales with a young Prince William in the Royal Box on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Credit: PA

In his rebuke of the BBC, the Duke of Cambridge said: "The interview was a major contribution to making my parents' relationship worse and has since hurt countless others. "It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.

"But what saddens me most, is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived. "She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions."

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"I think looking at the findings of Lord Dyson, there are clearly some very serious issues arise," Mr Buckland said.

"I'm not going to comment on whether criminal offences have been committed here - I think that is a matter for the police and the investigating authorities." He continued: "But I'm sure you've looked, like me, at the executive summary, it is a 127-page report and you see some of the words being used there - about false documents, forgery etcetera - these are hugely serious matters that don't just raise questions about the individuals and the journalists involved but also the senior leadership, sadly, who made decisions that Lord Dyson has I think rightly scrutinised and has found to be wrong. "So there is a lot of work for the BBC to do in order to make good what happened here."